Center Celebrates 50 and 55

by Jim Ford, Associate Director

This year, we celebrate two anniversaries here at the Center for Adventist Research. The first is the 50th anniversary of the formal establishment of the Heritage Room at Andrews University as a fully staffed research facility. Prior to 1966, the Heritage Room existed as a place, but was overseen by one of the library staff, who also had other responsibilities. In 1966, Louise Dederen was hired as the full time curator for the Heritage Room. It was with her focus and energetic attention that the collection began to grow exponentially, as well as providing a heightened level of service. Mrs. Dederen brought a professional approach to caring for the collection. We owe a large measure of thanks to the Emmanuel Missionary College librarians, who carefully collected and preserved a very wide range of “heritage” materials. It was this base, in addition to the resources that came from the Seminary Library when it moved from Washington, DC, that forms the original holdings of the Center for Adventist Research.

The Heritage Room, and later the Adventist Heritage Center, began expanding its physical footprint on the lower level of the James White Library. First one room and then another was taken over for storage. In 1966, the Heritage Room occupied one room located roughly where the Center’s current lobby is. By the time Mrs. Dederen retired in 1991, the Adventist Heritage Center occupied around 5,000 square feet, which included a fire-resistant vault, 3 exhibit rooms, a large reading area, a reception area, and 3 storage rooms.

We also celebrate the 55th anniversary of the establishment of a collection of Ellen G. White documents at Andrews University, which ultimately led to the formation of the first White Estate Branch Office in 1961. The initial motivation for the Ellen White materials being held at Andrews University was the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The placement of White materials here was a preservation measure to guard against loss in the event of a nuclear exchange between the two powers.

The first director of the Ellen G. White Research Center was T. Housel Jemison. After his untimely death in 1963, he was succeeded by his wife, Hedwig Jemison. With the White materials on campus, there was a push for access to them by the faculty and students. This led to the establishment in 1961 of a small office to serve this need. Under her leadership, the contents of the vault were slowly released for student use, one year at a time and only for advanced graduate students at first. Eventually usage progressed to MDiv students and the White materials are now permanently available for anyone to use in research.

The Heritage Room was in the southwest corner of the lower level of the James White Library building. In 1982, the White Estate Branch Office outgrew its small 500 square foot space in the Seminary Building and moved into a 2,000 square foot space on the northwest side of the lower level of the Library. In 1999, Library administration suggested the Adventist Heritage Center and the White Estate Branch Office be physically merged into one location as a service to patrons. This put all Adventist materials into one physical location. Also, both entities had similar space and storage needs which could be shared.

The new 6,000 square foot physical space was completed in 2000. The two entities moved in together, but functionally remained separate. In 2003, the two entities were merged functionally into what is today known as the Center for Adventist Research.